October 14, 2013

Food Expiration Dates: New Harvard Study Suggests Changes to Food Dating, Stop US Food Waste

Food expiration dates - I know I check the expiration dates on all my food packaging, how about you?

Not that I always respect that date; for example, “sell by” to me doesn’t mean much if I brought something home and immediately tossed it in the freezer. (Which is a great thing to do, by the way: buy something on sale, then freeze it until you’re ready to use it.)

Harvard University Study Reports Americans Waste 160 Billion Pounds of Food Every Year 

 A new research study has been published by Harvard University’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, entitled “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America.” (Click on the link to read the entire study online for free.)

 According to this new study, “[a]n estimated 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten,1 and according to even the most conservative estimates, Americans waste 160 billion pounds of food each year.” 

That is a heck of a lot of food  -- and a shameful amount of waste.

One of the big problems, according to these researchers? Food dating.

 Expiration dates on food in the United States are causing lots of good food to go to waste.

They are suggesting that lots of this waste could be stopped if the Food Dating system in the United States was standardized across various food industries as well as making the food labels we all read much easier to understand.

I agree. Making those food dates easier to understand would be a great thing. (Remember how you used to be able to figure out how fresh a loaf of bread was by the color-coded tag? No more; you can’t count on the color to tell you anything much any more.)

 For instance, the Harvard Study reveals that there’s nothing unsafe about food that is past the “sell by” food date — that date doesn’t have anything to do with the safety of the food itself; it’s an inventory control date for the store to control what’s on its shelves. Wow.

And, here’s a biggie: eating something well before the “sell by” food date doesn’t inherently mean that it’s all fresh, and good, and safe for you to eat. Nope. Things like how it was stored are a big factor here.

What about the “use by” food date code? The “use by” food date does not give you dependable information on how microbiologically sound that food product may be — that’s dependent on how the product has been manufactured, distributed, and stored for you.

Not All Food Is the Same: Food Dating Systems Should Reflect Ready-to-Eat Versus To-Be-Prepared 

Another big factor here: not all food is the same and they’re not suggesting that there not be universal one-size fits all food dating. Refrigerated ready-to-eat food is more risky for bacteria, for example, than something you have to bring home and cook. Why? The heat may kill dangerous bacteria in the food that the ready-to-eat item might share, but it’s not going to get zapped by heat before you eat it.

There’s lots more in the study. It’s worth your time to read. Now, I’m going to go get a snack.

October 8, 2013

Dog Joint Pain or Dog Arthritis - This Pill Has Given My Dog His Fun Life Back: Hooray for Osteo Pet Joint Care!

Right off the bat, I want you to know that I'm not getting paid anything to write about this product, not a single penny.  Osteo-Pet isn't sending me any freebies, either - they don't even know I exist.

I just want to share with you, Dear Reader, how much these supplements have changed my dog's life (and therefore, my life) for the better.

Let's go back to May.  Middle of the month, and my boy dog (born in 2002) was moving slow and not running around in the yard any longer.  Didn't like to get up and move around, panting more that he used to do.  Stiff back legs when he awoke in the morning.

His ball - his very, VERY favorite toy, lay on his bed but he never brought it to me any longer, asking to go play fetch and catch.

Then, the WORST thing happened.  That night, he couldn't jump on the bed.  Now, this pup has slept on the bed with me every night (except for a handful of times) since he was born.  Every night.  Heck, he thinks it's his bed and he's gracious enough to share it with me.

But he just couldn't do it.  And he wouldn't let me lift him.  You cannot know (or maybe you can, if you've gone through this too) how devastating this was - for both of us.  I cried and cried, thinking how it was a sign that I was going to lose him sooner rather than later.  I cried even harder because I could not figure out how to make him feel better.

Then I went to the internet.  That night.  Thank you God for the WEB!

The next day, thanks to Amazon, we began our Osteo-Pet Joint Care regimen.  Reviews explained that it would be a slow process, and it was.  But things began to get better in a couple of weeks.

And now, here we are in the first week of October.  Dear Reader, he's back to chasing SQUIRRELS in the back yard, he's bouncing up to start the day, he's playing ball and more.  He was doing lots of this by August, but he seems to be even more peppy and energetic and, well, happy, now.  (And if you don't know a happy dog from a sad one, you don't know dogs.)

It's amazing.  It's wonderful.  It's a blessing and an answered prayer.

His fur is thicker than it's ever been, he's got a great appetite, his face is one big smile all the time, and he jumps up on the bed now in the middle of the day, bouncing around a bit, just to show everyone that he CAN, goshdarnit!

I know that my boy may have another chapter where he can't jump up on the bed again.  I know that he's a "senior dog" and this isn't a miracle cure for aging.

But Osteo Pet Joint Care has given him a new lease on life and I'm so very grateful.  I thought I'd share with you, Dear Reader, because maybe our story will help another older, wonderful dog in pain, too.

Read my Amazon review here.

P.S. This is all the more joyous for me considering how I lost my beloved Molly in 2004, where in October she was given Rimadyl by the vet for joint pain, an otherwise healthy dog, and by March she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer (which the vet had told me in October was a "possible side effect but it's a quality of life decision").  Never saw much help for Molly from it, either.  Do your own web research on Rimadyl, I'm still angry about what happened.  Wish I'd known about Osteo Pet Joint Care back then.

September 30, 2013

The Shopper’s Thrill of the Great Bargain Find: Dollar Tree and Great Books (For a Buck)

 I’ve been living the Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle for many years now, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost that thrill of stumbling upon a great bargain while shopping. It’s just that the store names have changed, and the amount that I’m willing to pay is lots (LOTS) less now.

That zing in your heart strings, or purse strings, when you find something great for a low price? It’s still there.

Like it was for me last week.

Go back with me, Dear Reader, as I was pushing my little green shopping cart through the aisles of my local Dollar Tree, which in my opinion is the nicest dollar store out there. (At least in my neck of the woods, San Antonio.) Sure, there’s the need to eagle eye the products here, as in any bargain paradise (be it thrift store, flea market, garage sale, or WalMart) - you have to discern quality from crud.

Dollar Tree is My Favorite Dollar Store -- I Shop Dollar Tree Once a Month for Bargains

There are quality items to be found at Dollar Tree, and the reason that I prefer this chain to the others is two-fold: if I pick it up, I know it’s $1.00 or less (unlike some other “dollar” stores) and there’s more quality stuff at the Dollar Tree chains. At least, this has been my experience. Plus, they’re clean and their workers are friendly and helpful.

I visit Dollar Tree once a month without fail because I find great things there, like this week: 

  1. Brillo sponges (not pads), blue, with a scruffy surface on one side (package of two for a buck). 
  2. Index cards (200/$1.00)(I love using index cards for lots of things, it’s Old School, I know). 
  3. Plastic flowers for my outdoor wreathes (amazing quality, these plastic blooms - very slow to fade). 
  4. Betty Crocker kitchen stuff (got a primo pasta spoon for $1.00). 
  5. Baskets and bins (sweet, big reed basket for a buck - perfect for a gift basket). 
  6. Gift bags (this store doesn’t have the great selection I have seen in other D-Trees, but big bags for a buck is still nice). 
  7. Tape (got Scotch brand clear tape, enough to last me a year at least, two rolls for a buck). 
  8. Del Monte canned vegetables (two regular cans for a buck). 
  9. Dog toys (I don’t buy their edible offerings, but the small stuffed toys are safe and my pups love them - for the 30 minutes it takes for them to tear them apart outside in the grass.) 
  10. Books. That’s right, Dear Reader. BOOKS. 

My local Dollar Tree has some wonderful finds - and I thought I’d share with you the books I’ve bought this month at Dollar Tree: 

Is This Unfair to the Author? Geez Louise, I Hope Not 

I’m not the only one who has discovered great reads at the dollar store. Lynn Viehl writes of buying up some of her author/friend’s books upon discovering them at a dollar store in her April 2005 blog post - and she explains the reasons why finding books in a dollar store might make an author cringe.

 I love authors, I love books, I don’t want to hurt writers in any way. However, without Dollar Tree I would not have known about Richard Lupoff - nor would I read Linda Fairstein (even though I have heard of her name before).

Are these writers making money off my Dollar Tree buys? Nope; these are “remaindered remainders” as Viehl explains. Jance, Fairstein, Evanovich, Briggs, and Lupoff will make no more from their artistry and hard work on my copies than if I’d borrowed their books from the library.

However, they’ve gained a fan in me through DollarTree, and that’s got to be worth something, right? Especially when you consider that these are all series reads, where I’m going to be searching for the rest of the series? (Well, except for Plum. I’ve got almost every Stephanie Plum already.)

Plus, I like to think it’s better to scoop up these great finds at the Dollar Tree than to leave them there. I mean, the only thing worse than finding these books at the dollar store would be to discover that no one bought them there, right?

April 1, 2013

Pope Francis' Simplicity and His Easter Message 2013: I Love This New Pope, and I'm Not Catholic

I'm not Catholic, but as a Christian I loved the Easter message given by the new Pope, Pope Francis, yesterday from the Vatican.  Read the complete text online, here is a brief excerpt:
... So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ's Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish. 
And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.
I hope that I'm not insulting any Catholics out there, as I share my impression as a Protestant that this new Pope sure is inspiring to me.  I like that he's appreciative of living a simple life, though I understand this is causing some controversy among traditionalists in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis may be making waves by foregoing things like wearing the ermine lined cape as he debuted as the man chosen to serve as the next Pope.  However, I have found there is a spiritual aspect to living a simple life, and I cannot help but smile as I read more and more about Pope Francis apparently sharing this appreciation.

And I share his prayer -- that we all be renewed by God's mercy, that we may all accept the love of Jesus, and all that Pope Francis spoke about on Easter 2013.

God bless you, Dear Reader.  And God bless Pope Francis, love him!!!

March 31, 2013

Who Am I?

Hello, Dear Reader!  So, who the heck is writing this blog?  Well, my name is Reba Kennedy, I'm an official Baby Boomer who's over 50 and under 60 and that's enough about that.  Ahem.  I live a happy life here in San Antonio, Texas, with two great shelter rescue pups in a cute little cottage about ten miles north of the Alamo.

I began living a life of voluntary simplicity several years ago, as part of my Second Life career change from a twenty-plus year AV-rated lawyer to a professional writer. I started this blog in January 2006 in part because I needed to keep track of things I found on the web about this lifestyle in all its facets (food, money, health, fun, etc.).  (There was no Evernote then!)

I also started this blog because I wanted to share what I was learning with others - like you,  Dear Reader.  To share, yes, but truth be told, hopefully also to support those who are finding new ways to live simply.  Many are changing their ways because they've chosen a voluntary simplicity lifestyle for themselves.  However, as we all know, in these past several years lots of folks are living on less because it's forced upon them.

January 4, 2013

ROKU Review: Cutting Cable for Better Stuff at Cheaper Prices - I Love Streaming TV and You May, Too

Roku offers several options.

I cut cable on November 9, 2012 - this was such a big deal for me that I wrote the date on a stickie and stuck it on my monitor, so I'd remember the date.  Sure I was scared to see the cable box leave; of course I was worried I had made a mistake.

Lemme tell you: I have never looked back.

No, I didn't stop watching television - in fact, I'm watching TV about the same amount of time that I was before.  However, things are different now.

Big Money Saver

First things first: I'm saving around $100/month by opting for streaming TV via my ROKU HD instead of paying for TimeWarner cable (I had the account that was one above the basic service -- the one where you got TBN but no HBO or Showtime).  Start up costs here: around $50.00 for the ROKU device (I got it online at Roku's website) and about 10 minutes maximum to set things up.

Monthly charges?  I pay $8/month for Netflix and $8/month for Amazon Instant/Prime Videos.  My internet charge is for "turbo" from TimeWarner, and that's around $50.00 per month.  I signed up for Hulu Plus at $8/month but I never use it ... well, for Revenge on ABC when a new show airs.  I'm rethinking Hulu Plus right now: I could catch Revenge online at the ABC website for free, if that's all I need with the Hulu Plus membership.

Set up? It's a walk in the park.  

Seriously, this gizmo is easy peasy, set-up wise.  You do need to be ready to access the web with your laptop or tablet or whatever in order to do the initial login, etc. but it's not hard.  Astonishingly easy.
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